Urielle Klein-Mekongo’s debut play is based on her own true story.
Yvette delves into the trials of a young Black girl growing up, from Hello Kitty knickers to ‘lightys’ to the terrible secret of her stolen childhood. Using original music, spoken word, and a loop station, this one-woman show presents a story of teenage angst and survival.
Following a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017, Yvette opened the Southbank Centre’s WOW Festival in March and is now about to tour nationally, returning to London, and be presented at five leading venues across the city in an innovative new London touring model.
Winner of the Young Harts Writing Fest Audience Favourite 2017, Kings Head Theatre Stella Wilkie Award 2017, The East15 Pulse Award 2017 Klein-Mekongo is a bright young talent whom we had to speak to…
1# Hello Urielle introduce yourself who are you and what do you do?
I often struggle with answering this question, but usually, I say I’m an artist. I’m juggling a few hats at the moment and love to explore my creativity in many different ways. I’m an actress, playwright, singer, songwriter and music producer. But I love finding ways to tie those skills to together and create and collaborate with others.
2# Growing up, was a career in the arts inevitable or is this a lucky accident?
I started this journey as a singer-songwriter in my bedroom, I was quirky growing up looking for new ways to be different. I didn’t do too great academically and life was pretty harsh at the time. But then I found out about The National Youth Theatre course Playing Up and it changed my life. I learned so much and became an actress in training at drama school. Through my struggles in training, I found my voice in writing, which was something I was very much encouraged to do on the course I did at East 15. For now, I tell stories and find different ways to tell them, whilst also helping others tell stories.
3# If there was one person you could thank?
I would thank God for the network of people around me who have helped make this happen, for my support system at home. But most of all for helping me find Yvette, my very own superheroine who whilst writing this story has helped me come to terms with my own experiences and made me stronger for it.
4# Tell us about Yvette, who is Yvette and what’s her story?
Yvette is a one-woman show about a stolen childhood, and the urge to grow up so quickly. The play follows how she comes to terms with sexual trauma, and how to better understand it. But also she has to ask herself what she needs to do to build the courage to finish writing her story in life, and what she wants to be.
5# Why a one-woman show rather than a full cast and bigger story?
It just felt right told in this way because I wanted to explore the internal damage sexual abuse causes on a young mind. It made more sense for the audience to be able to hear it from the perspective of the person going through it and the vulnerability of the mind and how that can be manipulated.
6# Constructing a solo piece where do you start and are there any rules to how you put it together – I would assume the obvious ‘beginning, middle and end’ but what about the stuff in between?
I don’t believe in rules but I believe in a purpose and message. I wrote this show more as a therapeutic exercise for myself and found that the only to really inhabit this character and world was to pull apart from myself and understand what I wanted to say. For me, I just wrote and when I finished I pieced all of it together to find what I really wanted the world to know and understand about her.
7# Considering the character is a 13-year-old, how did you find her voice and character. Who were your character references aside from your memories?
I had to revisit my teens in the drama of it all, but it was music that helped me bring that sense of nostalgia. I’d spend time with my director at the time, Meriel, and would dance for hours to Garage and Funky House. I’d teach her dance steps and tell stories about being at secondary school in northwest London, we talked about parties and raves I snuck out to and it helped fuel my writing.
8# ‘crush on Lewis, trying to be a woman, friends, virginity, lighties, garage remixes… and an ‘Uncle’ there will be so many of us who will resonate with some if not all the topics raised – has bringing this to life been cathartic at all?
When I think of that time, I think about the last of secondary school and how happy I was to finally be free from it. I was bullied a lot, was full of promise and couldn’t wait to be a different person from who I was there. The funny thing is that I realised that I missed that chaos because it was home and everyone looked like me. But it was interesting to discover how many bad habits, and ways of thinking I had to shake to be who I am now and I’m so grateful for that.
9# You’re award-winning, you’re 5 star rated, and you performed at WOW you’re going on tour… What’s the journey been like with all this attention and success, and has the show evolved in any way since Edinburgh?
I’m not particularly used to the attention, I’m still learning to receive compliments, but this journey has made me more confident in my ability and I am constantly learning all the time. The show has somewhat evolved since Edinburgh but I love that it has evolved at the rate I am. The biggest thing I’ve been working on so far is self-care, I think it is easy to think one must sacrifice for their art but without you, there is no art, and I am the instrument so I have to make sure my mind and body are alright.
10# What’s next?
I have a lot of ideas but I’m still working out what to start on next and how to get those things off the ground. But I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m out with another project.
Catch Yvette on its UK Tour from 16th April to 23rd May 2018 – see tour listings below:
- 16 Apr Oxford Playhouse, Oxford – 11-12 Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2LW – 7.30pm | £10 BOOK HERE
- 24 Apr Harlow Playhouse Playhouse Square, Town Centre CM20 1LS – 7.30pm | pay what you can BOOK HERE
- 25 Apr Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich, St Benedict’s Street, Norwich NR2 4PG – Times and prices TBC BOOK HERE
- 1 May Mac Birmingham, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham, B12 9QH – Times and prices TBC BOOK HERE
- 3 – 4 May TiG7 Festival, Mannheim
- 8 – 9 May Camden People’s Theatre, London 58-60 Hampstead Rd, London NW1 2PY – Times and prices TBC BOOK HERE
- 10 – 12 May Shoreditch Town Hall, London, 380 Old St, London EC1V 9LT – 7.30pm | £12.50 (£10 conc) BOOK HERE
- 14 – 16 May Battersea Arts Centre, London, Lavender Hill, London SW11 5TN – 9pm | £12.50 (£10 conc) BOOK HERE
- 17 – 19 May The Albany, London, Douglas Way, Deptford, London SE8 4AG – 7.30pm | £12 (£10 conc) BOOK HERE
- 21 – 23 May Bush Theatre, London, 7 Uxbridge Rd, Shepherd’s Bush, London W12 8LJ – 7.45pm | £12 (£10 conc) BOOK HERE